Belfast Telegraph

Albums of the week: From Liam Gallagher to The Darkness

Former Oasis star Liam Gallagher finally unveils debut album As You Were, while The Darkness and a-ha are among the other eclectic offerings on offer this week.

LIAM GALLAGHER — AS YOU WERE

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then John Lennon and Sir Paul McCartney ought to feel very flattered indeed. Liam Gallagher’s first outing as a solo performer sounds so much like the Beatles, it could be Oasis.

Paper Clown might have been lifted wholesale from Revolver, I’ve All I Need shamelessly cribs the chord progression from Dear Prudence, and Universal Gleam is basically a variation on Lennon’s Real Love.

He acknowledges his influences at least, peppering the lyrics with references to classic song titles of the 1960s.

He also seems to be in an apologetic mood. For What It’s Worth, in particular, could be interpreted as an olive branch to long-suffering brother Noel.

He won’t win any awards for innovation, but what Gallagher lacks in originality he makes up for in attitude. As You Were is old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll, but it swaggers out of the speakers.

6/10: James Robinson

THE DARKNESS — Pinewood Smile

If you loved the Darkness the first time round, then you won’t be disappointed by Pinewood Smile. After a two-year break the four-piece are back, this time featuring the drumming skills of Rufus Tiger Taylor (son of Queen’s Roger Taylor).

Pinewood Smile is a darker and more grown-up offering. If you are expecting more of what made Justin and Co famous (I Believe in a Thing Called Love) you’ll be happy to hear the pop-style vibe of the poodle rock days is still there.

Justin’s vocals soar as the anthemic style that is their trademark flies with the progressive rock of Status Quo.

There is a richness that is reminiscent of Steven Tyler and Axl Rose, while the lyrics are still very much tongue-in-cheek but with a darker edge reflecting what has been happening to the band recently. All the Pretty Girls is one of the camper tracks on the album, with new ground being trod with Southern Trains, a fast, frantic and very sweary dark thrashabout, whereas Solid Gold is full of the frustrations of the modern music business.

7/10: Rachel Howdle

GABRIELLE APLIN — AVALON

Even if you think you’re unfamiliar with Gabrielle Aplin, you most certainly are not.

You’ll recognise her hauntingly pure vocals from the 2012 John Lewis Christmas advert, and no doubt her cover of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s The Power Of Love still sends shivers down your spine.

The 24-year-old singer-songwriter’s new release (an EP rather than a full album) is a true testament to her most impressive talent — her voice.

She’s moved on in the five years since she was thrust into the spotlight, and this electro-cum-ethereal direction suits her well.

Aplin’s voice moves easily through the dreamy tracks, laced with peppy beats and fresh, of-the-moment production.

Although the songs, especially the sublime ballad-like Stay, are slightly heavy in terms of their backing tracks, her vocals shine through above all else. Lead single Waking Up Slow is a strong start to the four-track release, and will leave you wanting so much more, which is surely an EP’s main objective.

7/10: Lucy Mapstone

A-HA — ACOUSTIC HITS, MTV UNPLUGGED

The Norwegian pop trio have built up an impressive back catalogue over a period of 30-plus years, and earlier this year they played their first all-acoustic concerts on the Norwegian island of Giske.

Joined by Alison Moyet, Ian McCulloch and Lissie for duets with Morten Harket, they reinterpret some of their biggest hits along with two new songs, This Is Our Home and A Break In The Clouds.

The stripped-back sound allows Harket’s pure vocals to shine through. His falsetto on Stay On These Roads is stunning.

On Echo and the Bunnymen cover The Killing Moon, Harket and McCulloch’s voices are a good match, and Alison Moyet puts in a fine performance on Summer Moved On.

There is no doubting the musicianship of the trio, but some of the drama of the original recordings is lost here. Nevertheless, this collection will please devoted fans.

6/10: Lisa Allen

MARILYN MANSON  — HEAVEN UPSIDE DOWN

Ten albums into a controversial career, Marilyn Manson is clearly not about to tone down his act — this latest studio release was preceded by a lead-off single entitled We Know Where You F****** Live, while the singer himself was hospitalised after he suffered a serious accident during Saturday’s show in New York while climbing on a stage backdrop depicting a pair of guns.

The aural onslaught is as punishing as ever, but there is typically a perverse humour within Manson’s darkness, and that is again evident on Say10. The eight-minute album centrepiece Saturnalia and the closing Threats of Romance are perhaps the stand-out moments here.

7/10: Tom White

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